Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Artists, Writers and Quitters

I have just read this article "Rejection and Reinvention" by author Tobias S. Buckell on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website. He talks about facing rejection, facing a lot of rejection, and continuing with being a writer and an artist anyway.

"Jim Van Pelt once told me he sold a story after 40 rejections, so I’ve always held that as my high water mark for a story, telling myself if I liked the story I would wait until I had 50 before I gave up on it." - Tobias S. Buckell

Something about Buckell's ideas really struck me. It wasn't about making editors "wrong" or "bad", and he definitely doesn't play the "poor me" card. 50 rejections before giving up on a story? Maybe that is just realistic these days, and something that every writer should expect.

What smacks me in the face is how many stories and poems I have given up on, after only 2 or 3 rejections. Having one piece of writing rejected 3 times is pretty harsh, and it makes you doubt your conviction that this really was a decent piece of writing.

Now I think, hang on, maybe I am giving up on myself and my writing too soon!

Maybe my writing deserves better than a writer that stops trying after just a handful of rejections.

Every writer, artist, story teller and designer feels this way though. We sacrifice time, love, and sometimes a lot of money for our babies -- our creative projects, I mean. When we can't sell our art, it is hard.

 You have to pick yourself up off the muddy ground, time and time again, and keep hoping. Sometimes you keep going with absolutely nothing to go on. You've never sold anything. No one has ever come right out and said you are a good writer. You just hope. You really, really hope, that success is in you.

After what seemed like a never-ending string of rejections last year, I stopped sending out my writing. Not my non-fiction -- that was still selling like hotcakes drizzled with melted Russian fudge. It was my fiction I was having trouble selling.

So I stopped.

For a few months I tried not writing. Which only achieved making me, and everyone in a 5 mile radius of me, absolutely miserable.

So I started writing again, in the way a person learns to walk again after a terrible accident. Slowly, gingerly, with small and shaking steps. I bought a few notebooks and promised myself to fill them with short stories. Not good short stories. Not marketable short stories. Just...whatever short stories needed to be written.

Nothing complicated, nothing huge. Just keep it simple, keep it easy, and keep walking.

While I fully intend to follow through with that process, Tobias S. Buckell's article has given me some decent food for thought. Writing involves a lot of heart and a lot of guts and sometimes a bit of bone, too. It deserves more than a fair-weather friend.

I'm sorry, Writing. 
I'll keep going, if you do the same. 

For other interesting articles on similar subjects, read the series "Facing Fear and Uncertainty" by Terri Windling, "Fantasy is Uni-Age" by Terry Pratchett, and "Sleeping Beauty" by Theodora Goss.

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